Thoughts written in 1969 by an editor of a book of articles on Fascism (John Weiss) that are worth considering today (with a few comment of my own):
Editor: “The German middle classes were the very model of the famed ‘achieving ethic’ of the western European middle classes. By self-discipline, hard work, savings, and deferred consumption, they have always believed they could make their way to the top. Now their vision of social reality was mortally threatened. The Nazis offered the force needed to smash the left along with subsidies and economic regulation to protect the property and competitive position of the little man…Only those who have been completely frustrated, with all their values, work, and training ruined by uncontrollable events, can afford easy moralizing about the support this class gave to Hitler. The radical right gains power because of genuine social grievances, and if one hopes to block their access to power, one must attempt to ameliorate those grievances.”
Me: I work in an area which was once filled with family farms. Very few of these small farms still exist, and those who own them farm as a hobby and work factory jobs in order to keep them. Add to that many of the good paying factory jobs have been sent overseas in the last few decades, and you can see that a major economic and cultural upheaval has affected these people. It was Clinton who passed NAFTA and people who have had their lives changed by it do not see Washington as a solution to but the cause of their problems. Democrats just don’t seem to — or want to — understand this.
Editor: “Hitler’s major political task was to maintain his grip on his small-business following, yet not alienate the corporate wealth and landed support he needed in the hectic campaigning of the early thirties. To achieve this uneasy alliance, he diverted the anti-corporate sentiments of German small-business groups into anti-Semitism and hyper-nationalism.”
Me: I believe it is more useful to fight fascism on the economic field rather than waging a propaganda war against it. This was perhaps impossible in Germany in the 20’s and 30’s, but the Democratic Party could have waged a campaign for economic justice if they had chosen to. They still can, but the supposed best of them are content to attach sassy messages to their designer dresses rather than put their careers on the line by fighting for policies that could actually make people’s lives better.
Editor: “The social policies of the radical right in power should not be misunderstood because of the term National Socialism. In the conservative European intellectual tradition, the term socialism did not mean the redistribution of property and income in favor of the workers. It meant the sacrifice of private interests and material gain in the higher service of the state.”
Me: Conservatives just can’t seem to see the difference between authoritarianism and communism. It is a misunderstanding our ruling class are not in any hurry to clear up.
Editor: “In the Nazis’ view of the future, eastern Europe and Russia were to be without cities, the native population was to be exterminated or enslaved, and sturdy Nordic peasant warriors were to make the land their own….it was not enough for Mussolini to drain marshes in Italy; he would need Ethiopia and imperialistic resettlement programs. The Slavs and Africans were to pay the costs of preserving the old elites, for otherwise land could come only from established German or Italian landowners.”
Me: What has been and what continues to be our desire for the people of Russia? Do we or have we ever regarded them as deserving of an equal seat at the table, or do we regard them as we do every nation south of the equator or east of Europe?
Editor: “Small businessmen had been the backbone of Nazi support before the war. Yet they suffered the most of all Nazi supporters. Once in power, he turned the German economy over to many of Germany’s leading industrialists, as Mussolini had done before him. Hitler suppressed his small-business following, and forbade idle theorizing about the sanctity of the small-business order with its populist radicalism. After all, a nation of small property owners could not fight a modern war.”
Me: Small business owners have always seemed to be suckers for the large business owners, believing they were on the same team and that they shared a same goal. They just don’t seem to get that large businesses have gotten where they are by swallowing up and destroying any competition they could, abandoning any pretensions they might have had about free markets along the way.
Editor: “Fascism cannot be understood if it is viewed as a revolution. It was a counterrevolution. Its purpose was to prevent the liberalization and the radicalization of Italy and Germany.”
Me: Fascism is the reaction that occurs when the left tries to ameliorate the unacknowledged suffering caused by capitalism.
Editor: “Those of us who live in the nuclear age ought to know this well: fascism needs war. As Mussolini put it, “He who has steel has bread.” Otherwise the social order must be transformed in those leftist and progressive ways which alleviate the economic crises that bring radicalism, left or right, to power…As for Hitler and Mussolini, the Great Depression would eventually ruin them too…War, conquest, and exploitation became the only way to avoid discontent without a betrayal of all they stood for and had supported in the past.”
Me: If we had a functioning left right now, it would be trying to oppose MAGA by strengthening our own economy. The fact that the Democratic Party has chosen to make sending tens of billions of dollars of weapons to Ukraine (to say nothing of the arms we are shipping to Saudi Arabia to wage war on Yemen, the arms we are giving to Israel, etc.) their priority rather than helping its own citizens at home, seems to place them comfortably on the fascist spectrum, as well.
Editor: “The literature about the causes of World War II has been obsessed with the notion that a firm stand by the West some time before the invasion of Poland would have stopped Hitler and avoided a four-year war… But war was necessary if Hitler was to resolve the domestic tensions that had ended the Weimar Republic. In view of all this, it seems that military action by the West before September 1939 could at best have brought on the war more quickly, or postponed it for a few years.”
Editor: “When Hitler violated the Versailles Treaty, he did so with the general approval of much of enlightened international opinion. The treats was unjust and humiliating. Unfortunately, French conservative governments had insisted on enforcing the Versailles Treaty in order to keep Germany weak. (In the opinion of the average German, this worked untold harm on the Weimar Republic. Thus is it always with the reasoning of ‘hawks.’ Oppression rarely breeds submission, and usually encourages its opposite.”
Me: Again, it’s very easy to demonize another nation, it’s next to impossible to consider how your own behavior led to an unfavorable outcome. Were Germans responsible for the Second World War? Absolutely. Does blaming Germans for World War II absolve anyone from considering how they might prevent another war? Absolutely not.
Editor: “As Hitler once told his generals, this was a war to the death between ideologies and races. Had Germany won the war, tens of millions of Russians and Eastern Europeans would have been exterminated. The remnant would have become a vast labor reserve, nomadic people with no communal life, no national identity, deprived by the S.S. of the psychological ad social means of resistance.”
Editor: “Fascism in the particularly horrible German form may never occur again. But the use of force by threatened groups is bound to continue into the future. Every radical-right group has with itself some fascist potential. It is not enough to declaim against ultra-conservatism, or to declare one’s moral purity. We ought to learn from the past to recognize the coming danger from its earliest symptoms And we should learn to use social controls to make sure that no class or group must bear the largest cost of social change. Only in this way can totalitarianism, right or left, be stopped.”
Me: If the left is capable of providing a decent existence for us all, it might want to do that. If it prefers to blame others, it most likely is being run by a professional managerial class that is not in touch with the working class or those who have not even been able to achieve that modest degree of security. It is the left’s job to provide a workable alternative to the right. This shouldn’t be difficult. It’s merely asking them to provide D- effort.